Sunday, November 30, 2008

Coupons, bargain blogging and tips to save

I'll admit it right up front here: I'm a coupon fanatic. If I don't save 20 percent on my weekly grocery shopping trip, I'm bummed.

So when I read Herald reporter Donna Wright's report on coupon experts, I was humbled. These folks have it down to a fine art. And what better timing than now, when the top of everyone's conversation is how to save in these tough economic times. If you missed it in today's Bradenton Herald, here it is online. This link also takes you to Herald photographer Paul Videla's video, "A 9-minute lesson in couponing."

The Bowers have some great tips.

We also launched a new blog, Bargain Blogger, where Herald employees will explore the best money-saving tips with you in the days ahead.

Today's Sunday Herald doesn't have the typical grocery inserts printed by Newsamerica and Valassis because it's a major holiday weekend. Instead, there are plenty of local vendor coupons, thanks to our advertising department's blitz. Check out pages 6B & 7B in the local section.

Happy shopping.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thank you for calls of thanks

My day started with three voice mails from readers thanking us for the front-page stories about so many in our community who are "Giving Back" the past few days. Talk about great therapy! And as reporter Donna Wright noted in today's Surviving the Squeeze story, far more of us are reaching out for therapeutic help today.

Here's another note that started my week off wonderfully.

We want to commend the Bradenton Herald for printing the "joint adoption" story in your paper on Saturday, November 22nd. With all the "gloom and doom" in the world today, it was refreshing to read such a beautiful story.... especially on the FRONT PAGE! Thanks again!

Sandra and Eugene

Sometimes, taking thanks and sharing it with everyone feels fantastic.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Reach out and help someone

The past week brought new challenges for many of us, and too many reminders that times are tough for a growing number of our friends and neighbors.

But as we head into Thanksgiving week, the Herald's newsroom staffers are renewing their vows to remind readers how they can help. Teaya Perez, we hope, will be one of those success stories. And there's been some instant gratification from other stories we've done, as noted in my Sunday column.

We also published one of the most complete lists of how to help in Manatee County -- and where to get help -- on the editorial pages today.

Pick your favorite -- and then act on it. And if you need help, reach out. One of our hands will be there.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rowlett student captures American pride

Little can be more refreshing than the excited words of a child.

A teacher’s assistant from Rowlett’s magnet school recently shared such a note with our photographer, Tiffany Tompkins-Condie. Tiffany had captured the photograph posted below for the Herald's election coverage, and the featured little girl wrote about her experience for her third-grade class.

Her letter is filled with energy and pride -– the perfect thing to share with you on this blustery morning.

Sent: Tue 11/18/2008 10:13 AM
To: Tompkins, Tiffany - Bradenton
Subject: Re: Early voting photo

Thought you might like to see what Mackenzie wrote.

Early Voting
by Mackenzie Grace, 3rd grade

On the Friday before the election, I went to go vote early with my Mom. We drove to the place, and we saw a big line there already. Luckily I had brought my "Friendship according to Humphrey" book with me. (I am a bookworm.) It was hot outside, so they had water bottles a little ways up the line.

When it was our turn (FINALLY!) to go in I was relieved of air conditioning. Cool! I had never seen a ballot before! When we were done voting we gave the ballot to a man who put the ballot in a machine that slurped it up. Then he gave us both an "I VOTED" sticker. I walked out of there proud that I had seen voting when I was only 8! I can't wait until I can do it myself. And I was in the newspaper for it!
Gretchen Rath
Technology Teacher Assistant
Rowlie's Nest Director

Rowlett Magnet Elementary School

Thanks, Mackenzie and Gretchen. You have my vote.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weather watchers track their home towns

As the weather turns crisp, I'm reminded that our readers treasure some of the smallest pieces of information our newspaper provides. Our weather map, published on the back page of the front section every day, holds hundreds of these details. And whenever it changes, we hear about it.

That happened recently, but we didn't realize the provider had dropped some cities until we heard from readers. I got a dozen phone calls and emails such as these:

I have noticed in the last couple weeks that the cities of Ft. Wayne, Ind., and South Bend, Ind. have been omitted from the national weather contact list of cities. I look for those cities because I have family there and that's home area for me. Was just wondering why they are omitted.

Thanks for your time.
Merlyn D. Fish

And this, from Martha J. Watson:

This is to inquire as why you have removed the City of Peoria, IL from your National Forecasts listing. We have lived in Bradenton since 1994 and have always been able to check our hometown weather, but that particular listing has been deleted.

As a Bradenton Herald Subscriber for many years I am asking that you put Peoria back in your listings of cities under National Forecasts. It may not be a significant listing to the Herald weather staff, but it is to us and several of our friends who are from the Midwest.

Well, they're back -- and I received almost as many calls thanking us.

And though it may be sweatshirt weather here in Bradenton, our low is still warmer than all these cities' highs today. It's going to dip into the teens in Peoria tomorrow. You gotta love Florida!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Veteran journalist McCartney weighs in

Jim McCartney called me to make a date -- for his farewell luncheon.

Ouch. We had pared back on correspondents' funds, and that included the meager amount we paid Jim each month. And he wasn’t going to let me off the hook that easily.

Jim is a veteran journalist -– from the “golden years,” as he told me over lunch. A retired national correspondent and Washington columnist for Knight Ridder, Jim has covered so much history and countless politicians. His portfolio includes the transitions of power to the Kennedy administration, the Nixon administration and the Carter administration.

For those of you who might not know Jim, his political leanings as a columnist sometimes redefine liberal. So he was only half-joking when he questioned why the ending of his Oct. 26 column in the Bradenton Herald had been cut. Even his conservative buddies noticed that the headline referred to Sen. John McCain as a “loose cannon,” but that Jim failed to state that in his column.

Well, it wasn’t a conservative plot. His column fell victim to our first week on a new system, and those paragraphs somehow became invisible on the printed page. They made it into our archives, and you can read the column in entirety here.

Reassured, Jim chuckled a bit as he made me an offer we couldn’t refuse: He’s going to keep writing for the Herald, and add the transition of power to the Obama administration to his portfolio.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday morning, shining brightly

Good morning, it's Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008.

And it's a Sunday morning with talk shows and headlines dominated by change. In my column today, I wrote about some of the change within our newsroom and our community.

And the talk shows are dominated with the same. The competition for guest speakers must be fierce:

-- This Week on ABC: Host George Stephanopoulos has a journalist roundtable discussing the transition team under President-elect Obama, and whether he should join a special session, go for the "Big Bang" of change come January, and more.

-- FOX News Sunday: Host Chris Wallace talks the future of the Congressional GOP, Mike Pence and Eric Cantor, and to former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, who now runs Obama’s transition.

-- Meet the Press on NBC: Scheduled guests were Obama-Biden transition team co-chair Valerie Jarrett; Florida's Republican Sen. Mel Martinez; and Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.

-- Face the Nation on CBS: Host Bob Schieffer scheduled talks with the Obama transition team.

Not a bad Sunday morning, with my newspaper, hot coffee, channel surfer and pal Joey snuggled up. The sun is shining.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What was it like at the polls? Sound off

The newsroom is always a great place to be on Election Night. Results are coming from so many sources now -- it's a race to see who has the most complete numbers first. The hum in here is invigorating -- just as it was at the polls Tuesday, with the banter and excited anticipation of historic change everywhere.

We want to continue tapping that energy. What were your experiences? You've posted some of them throughout the day. I noticed on one of our fellow McClatchy newspaper sites that they were capturing dozens of comments with one posting. I've borrowed the idea here for you to comment.

What was it like at the polling places today in Manatee County and beyond for this historic presidential election? How were the lines? Did you get the ballot you expected? What was the best comment you heard?

Sound off.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A tasty tribute to learning at USF

On this Sunday Before Election Day, the politicking was heavy just about everywhere. Today's Brunch on the Bay was no exception, as many of our local candidates turned out to shake hands with so many community leaders gathered under one tent.

But politics had to take a back seat for the real reason everyone was there: to celebrate the gift of education.

The University of South Florida has grown to become the ninth largest university in the United States, President Judy Genshaft proudly noted. Since it began, the Brunch on the Bay Scholarship Endowment has secured more than $1.5 million for USF students. The brunch is held on the lawn of the Crosley Estate, neighbors of the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, with a breathtaking view of the bay.

Amid the hum of champagne bottles popping and fantastic food being devoured, USF's biggest supporters turned the talk to change. In her welcoming remarks, Margaret Callihan of SunTrust Bank set the stage with her challenge:

"Show up. Stand up. Speak up. Make a difference."

This fund-raiser's success is a stellar statement to the importance of higher education in our community. It's a testament to the area's determination to continue nurturing critical thinking and leadership -- one key way to defy a lagging economy and set the momentum for change.

I hope the politicians were listening.